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On January 17, 2014 Hawaii County passed groundbreaking legislation to ban plastic bags at grocery checkout stores. This ruling was seen as a victory for grassroots groups such as the Surfrider Foundation and the Sierra Club, two of the primary activist groups agitating for the ban. Reasons given for the plastic bag ban include ingestion by land and marine life alike, and the polluting of the ocean due to chemical decomposition from the eroding plastic.
Given this reasoning, we the undersigned ask the Hawaii County mayor and council to ban Styrofoam food containers, widely used in restaurants and stores for takeaway meals, including the famous plate lunches known in Hawaiian culture.
Why ban Styrofoam food containers? Styrofoam contains polystyrene, which if leached into the ocean can have the same hazardous effects as loose plastic bags once decomposed. Like plastic bags, it is light and subject to being blown about in landfills and garbage trucks, where it can be directly deposited by wind into the ocean. And like plastic bags, Styrofoam is consumed by marine and land animals, causing major hazards to animals such as the Hawaiian green sea turtles (which are listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973). Leached polysystrene sinks to the ocean bottom, where it will act as a contaminant of not only the ocean surface but the entire sea floor.
Legislation to ban Styrofoam in Hawaii is not new. Honolulu City Council members Stanley Chang and Ann Kobayashi proposed Bill 40, aimed to ban Styrofoam food containers. The town of Kilauea in Kauai has also banned Styrofoam from its restaurants.
The County of Hawaii's Department of Environmental Management website promotes the concept of zero waste, that "In nature, the by-product of one system is feedstock for another system. Only humans have created this thing like "waste." Ancient Hawaiian culture lived this way before the term "Zero Waste" came to be. We can live this way again through small shifts in our daily activities" (www.hawaiizerowaste.org/zero-waste).
In this spirit, we the undersigned ask the mayor of Hawaii and the Hawaii County Council to enact a ban on Styrofoam food containers. Mahalo for your kind consideration.
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